Australian national firearms amnesty

Amnesty update: nearly 30,000 guns but what are we counting?

Inconsistent reporting and poor quality of data are preventing us getting a real picture of the effectiveness of Austalia’s national firearms amnesty, despite nearly 30,000 weapons being surrendered over its first two years.

The Commonwealth Attorney-General’s department has published a report detailing information and statistics on the National Firearms Amnesty for the 2022/23 period but the information is limited.

The amnesty, which is being facilitated by the states, allows people in possession of a firearm unlawfully (eg, because they don’t have a licence at all or aren’t licensed for that category of firearm) to surrender it. 

In some cases a person may obtain a PTA for the firearm and register it to their licence.

According to the report, between 1 July 2022 and 30 June 2023, a total of 12,190 firearms and other weapons were surrendered, along with 637 firearm parts and accessories.

In the 24 months since the amnesty began on 1 July 2021, 29,733firearms and weapons and 1243parts and accessories were surrendered.

Interestingly, Queensland was the only state which provided a breakdown of surrendered firearms by registration category.

All other states simply listed firearms by whether they were in the categories of rifle, shotgun, handgun, airgun, imitation or other.

Anecdotal evidence has been that the majority of firearms handed in during amnesties are basically clapped out .22 rifles, single-shot or double-barrelled shotguns, and spring-powered air rifles — a position the data from Queensland would appear to support.

Two stolen and 17 missing firearms were also identified nationally as part of the amnesty, and someone in NSW handed in a fully automatic firearm, although no specific details on it were provided.

Thirty-four suppressors were handed in — 28 in Tasmania alone. There were 69 actions (66 from NSW and three from SA) and 131 barrels (including 82 in NSW and 40 in WA).

While the data does provide some insight into how the amnesty is progressing, it is also compromised by inconsistent categorisation or reporting across the states.

For example, some states classify gel blasters and non-functioning replica guns as actual firearms and have recorded them in amnesty figures as such. 

The figures show 295 semi-automatic firearms where surrendered but it does not differentiate between longarms and handguns; nor did Victoria record any data related to semi-automatics.

It’s also worth noting that while anti-gunners may hail nearly 30,000 guns handed in as some sort of victory, the reality is the number represents a fraction of the firearms imported to Australia in a given year, never mind those already legally present in the country.

Figures from the Department of Home Affairs show that in the 2014/15 period alone, 104,323 conventional firearms of all types were imported into Australia, with that figure rising to 120,541 when airguns and paintball markers were included.

Based on the underlying assumption that most surrendered firearms were off the books, the amnesty is undoubtedly getting unlicensed firearms off the streets, so on that front it is working as intended.

However, the data provides no statistical breakdown to differentiate between unwanted old clunkers and those firearms that might have posed a genuine potential threat to public safety. 




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Royce Wilson

Royce is something rare in Australia: A journalist who really likes guns. He has been interested in firearms as long as he can remember, and is particularly interested in military and police firearms from the 19th Century to the present. In addition to historical and collectible firearms, he is also a keen video gamer and has written for several major newspapers and websites on that subject.